We were fortunate enought to catch up with David Wright who works as the Operational Manager whilst also working regular shifts as a HEMS Paramedic on board the air ambulance.
Describe your journey to becoming a member of the KSS air ambulance crew?
I started working for the Ambulance Service in 2002, working at Redhill Ambulance Station and subsequently qualified as a paramedic. I then decided to undertake a course at the University of Hertfordshire, qualifying as a Critical Care Paramedic in 2010. After I qualified, I joined the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance as a HEMS Paramedic, initially on a 3 year secondment.
Can you describe your current role here both as the Operational Manager and a Critical Care Paramedic and how has your role developed since you joined the organisation?
After working as a HEMS Paramedic for 3 years I had the opportunity to increase my secondment. I started working as an Operational Clinical Lead, which then developed into my current role as Operational Manager. One of my responsibilities is to look after the operational crew; coordinating shifts and annual leave, and helping to ensure our day-to-day operation runs smoothly. I work closely with the other Operational Managers to ensure we are consistently developing and mentoring our crews. I also still work occasional shifts as a HEMS Paramedic.
What is the role of the Paramedic more generally, how do they fit in with the rest of the crew?
The paramedics have a massive amount of experience in pre-hospital care, so when we work with the doctors who have the expertise of in-hospital care, together we can deliver much more rounded care to the patient. The paramedics specifically are responsible for driving the emergency response cars; all of the paramedics have gone through extensive driver training. We are also the technical crew member on board the aircraft, which means we assist the pilot with navigation whilst in flight.
What is your relationship like with the rest of the crew and how does that impact on your working life?
We spend 12 hour shifts together, so you see more of the crew some weeks than your family! Naturally, you get to know each other very well and part of the attraction of the job is working in these small teams and really getting to know your colleagues. This is also essential when we respond to an emergency; on a job you almost have this second sense of what your crewmate is thinking. It’s also critical at the scene of an incident that you know you can rely on your colleague. Everyone is trained to the same high standard, whether they’re a doctor or a paramedic so we can interchange skills to get the best possible outcome. Training is a huge part of our operation and ensures we are doing the very best for our patients. We are very aware that we are funded by the generosity of the public and therefore, always look to re-use items that are no longer fit for the job – for example, we use worn out medical kit bags for training purposes.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of working for an air ambulance service?
The hardest part of the job is just the nature of the work we see, because the majority of our patients are severely ill or injured. On the other hand, it’s rewarding to know that we can treat them to the absolute best of our ability; essentially bringing the emergency department to the roadside. Another huge reward is when patients come back to see us, which they often do.